In 2019, we hosted four Café Pracadémique events to better understand the sector’s priorities for increasing the sustainability and resiliency of Canada’s community housing sector.
Each Café began in the online community a month before the in-person event, with Thought Leaders contributing short posts to our blog. These blog posts highlighted the existing research being mobilized during the Cafés.
The in-person events began with short talks from the Thought Leaders, reviewing key knowledge and context in an accessible manner. After this brief introduction, facilitators led small group discussions and activities surrounding the Café topic at hand.
Through facilitated work in small groups, each Café culminated in a roadmap on the topic of the Café, including assembling research teams to address priority areas in Phase 2.
Saint John, NB | Rural and Ageing Populations and Community Housing
The area of focus for Saint John’s Café was understanding the needs of rural and ageing populations to ensure resilient and sustainable community housing.
Thought Leaders Stephen MacMackin and David Turner shared their experience of establishing seniors’ community housing
in the rural setting of Hampton, NB.
“Community people, motivated just by their generosity and compassion for people in their community. I think that’s probably what’s going to be needed for most rural developments.”– Saint John Café Participant
Participants agreed there are three major challenges affecting community housing:
- Increasing investment: Community housing needs to be built, but many financial institutions do not want to work with non-profit organizations
- Public will: Social stigma surrounding those struggling with housing creates barriers to housing
- Stable funding: Funding shortages for construction/start-up and ongoing operation of community housing
Hamilton, ON | Business Transformation and Workforce Development
In Hamilton, our Café’s focus was on business transformation and workforce development in the community housing sector.
Thought Leaders Leigh Bursey, Margie Carlson and Jeff Neven shared their experiences of business transformation and workforce development in Ontario’s community housing sector.
“If you’re trying to avoid risk and mitigate risk, there is no housing development for you. It’s not possible.”– Hamilton Café Participant
Participants identified seven priority areas for transforming community housing:
- Asset-based community: View housing as community fabric
- Show me the money! : Diversify revenue streams
- It’s about people: Humanize resources and view tenants as assets
- Reflect and renew: Challenge and reimagine barriers
- Lead with Evidence: Leverage data for business intelligence
- Team up, scale up: Involve other sectors
- Try new things: Freedom to experiment and take knowable risks
Edmonton, AB | Community Housing in the Context of Reconciliation
Our Café Pracadémique focus was on community housing sustainability in the context of reconciliation.
Our Thought Leaders were Cheryl Whiskeyjack, Executive Director of Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society, and Sarah Woodgate, Director, Calgary Housing and President, Calgary Housing Company. They discussed ongoing reconciliation within Alberta’s community housing sector.
“In the month leading up to Christmas, we become so altruistic in Edmonton. We have that spirit where we come together, and then New Year’s comes and we go back to normal. I wish we could hang on to that feeling. That’s the spirit of reconciliation.”– Cheryl Whiskeyjack, Thought Leader
Participants agreed that there are roadblocks to reconciliation as it pertains to community housing:
- A lack of commitment to and understanding of reconciliation
- Western lens on housing
- Funding shortfalls – not just for housing, but for affordable living
- Election cycles that mean funding is not consistent
- Representation: Whose voices count and are valued?
- Ongoing prejudice and racism
Vancouver, BC | Impact of Climate Change on Community Housing
In Vancouver, our Café topic was the impact of climate change on the sustainability and resiliency of the community housing sector.
Ian Cullis and Christine Williams shared their knowledge of climate change related issues in BC’s community housing sector.
“The community housing sector is among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and therefore it should be our highest concern.”– Café Participant
Participants highlighted five priorities:
- Transformation, not transition: Accept that fundamental change is needed and be open to collective problem-solving on a massive scale
- Decolonizing and Indigenizing: Include Indigenous agencies and housing providers as equal partners in addressing climate change
- Resident focused: Embed inclusion in everyday practices and decisions
- Evaluate and improve: Measure, report and share
- results of interventions
- Address fragmentation: Sharing best practices is key to